Banking merger momentum grows in the Gulf

Banking merger momentum grows in the Gulf

By OLIVIER HOLMEY

The formation of First Abu Dhabi Bank, widely viewed as a success, has sparked a series of merger announcements. Will scale make for better performing banks? And could cross-border mergers in the region finally happen?

Sideways: Ken Moelis – Ken of Arabia sticks to one costume

Sideways: Ken Moelis – Ken of Arabia sticks to one costume

By JON MACASKILL

Ken Moelis lived up to his nickname ‘Ken of Arabia’ when he showed up at the Saudi Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh in late October in his brave pursuit of future fee income despite the risk of international opprobrium.

Banking: Can nothing hurt Saudi sentiment?

Banking: Can nothing hurt Saudi sentiment?

The murder of prominent Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi has sparked condemnation of the kingdom’s leadership the world over, but as the dust settles after the Future Investment Initiative, what are the real-world effects, if any, of this crisis on Saudi Arabia’s banking ties?

Africa seeks new solutions to its infrastructure needs

Africa seeks new solutions to its infrastructure needs

By JASON MITCHELL

Slower growth is translating into lower government spending on infrastructure. With an estimated funding deficit of $40 billion a year, private-sector solutions from Africa’s home-grown pension fund industry as well as international insurance firms could help plug the gap.

Uganda: Listings outlook brightens after Cipla IPO

Uganda: Listings outlook brightens after Cipla IPO

Cipla Quality Chemicals’ share sale is good news for Uganda’s capital markets, but is still something of a rarity. Investors have little choice when it comes to picking stocks: government borrowing remains high and puts the focus on bonds, while family-owned businesses tend to be wary of opening up to outside investment.

Africa comes under renewed pressure to promote its local bond markets

Africa comes under renewed pressure to promote its local bond markets

With global liquidity conditions tightening, local currency bond markets have a more important role to play in financing African governments and companies. While Ghana and Nigeria are leading the way, other markets are still in the early stages. Poor transparency and liquidity, and a multiplicity of legal regimes are holding back foreign investment.

South Africa’s new banks nip at the heels of the big four

South Africa’s new banks nip at the heels of the big four

By DOMINIC O’NEILL

As the central bank awards its first new banking licences in 20 years, the big four will find it harder to justify the fees that have underpinned their profitability. The newcomers promise technology will facilitate cheaper banking services and tackle inequality.

How SocGen is building an African future

How SocGen is building an African future

By DOMINIC O’NEILL

Senior management at Société Générale sees a unique opportunity for growth in Africa, including east Africa, Nigeria and the lusophone countries. The aim is to be much more than the only French bank left standing on the continent. Instead, the bank is courting regional clients by building local markets and structured finance platforms, while its investment in mobile money could be the seed of a much bigger African consumer business.

Central bank drives lending bonanza for Egypt's SMEs

Central bank drives lending bonanza for Egypt's SMEs

By LUCY FITZGEORGE-PARKER

Egypt’s private-sector banks have traditionally been wary of lending to SMEs, but now a combination of new technology and central bank pressure is driving some of the country’s most sophisticated lenders to take a fresh look at the segment.

Outlook darkens for the Gulf’s competing powers

Outlook darkens for the Gulf’s competing powers

By OLIVIER HOLMEY

In early 2016, the Middle East’s two largest countries looked set to become the world’s most vibrant frontier markets. Two years on, many bankers doubt that either Iran or Saudi Arabia can live up to these expectations.

China in MEA: more than bricks and mortar

China in MEA: more than bricks and mortar

By KANIKA SAIGAL

Five years after China launched its Belt and Road Initiative, its ambitions in the Middle East and Africa are beginning to go beyond infrastructure and oil.

SocGen and Absa mull CIB tie-up

SocGen and Absa mull CIB tie-up

By DOMINIC O’NEILL

Partnership could replace broken Barclays links; follows rumours of sale of Société Générale South Africa custody unit to Absa.

Turbulence can’t touch Lebanon's Blom Bank

Turbulence can’t touch Lebanon's Blom Bank

By OLIVIER HOLMEY

Saad Azhari has quietly ushered in a new era at Blom Bank. The outwardly conservative firm has embraced technology and pulled off a transformative acquisition for its wholesale business. But prudence remains the watchword in such a tempestuous market.

Saudi Arabia gets MSCI recognition

Saudi Arabia gets MSCI recognition

By OLIVIER HOLMEY

Inclusion in the emerging market index is recognition of the country’s reforms and could bring $50 billion of foreign investment.

Middle East’s strategic location drives FX growth

Middle East’s strategic location drives FX growth

By PAUL GOLDEN

Less onerous regulatory requirements and the proximity to markets where retail FX is prohibited continue to encourage brokers to set up shop in the Middle East, despite ongoing state protection for the Saudi Arabian currency.